science, social-emotional

Spotlight – Jabari Jumps/Salamander Sky

Jabari Jumps (Candlewick)
Written & Illustrated by Gaia Cornwall

For ages: 3-6
Jabari has decided this is the day he will jump from the diving board into the city swimming pool. His father and baby sister accompany him on this day out, with the little boy constantly stating aloud that he’s a good jumper & he’s not scared. Jabari is psyching himself up to do something he is somewhat frightened of. But he’s determined, though. As Jabari gets in line and moves closer to the ladder that will take him to the board he feels the butterflies set in. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all? He keeps finding ways to stall, like needing to stretch first. Dad never pressures him but reminds his son that being scared is okay. Of course, Jabari conquers his fear and learns a lesson. So do we.

This lovely simple story is one so many kids need to hear. So often many parents (mine included) pressure their children to do things they aren’t quite ready for, whether diving into a pool, riding a bicycle, or driving a car. These things are very scary for kids of all ages, so letting someone work through their fear is the best option. Positive encouragement and empathy always win out over unhelpful pressure. Cornwall delivers bright, beautiful illustrations highlighting the beauty of a warm, sunny day at the pool.


  1. This book provides excellent opportunities for looking at character traits with text evidence. Jabari and his dad can be analyzed with each one providing a variety of qualities via different behaviors.
  2. Have students write a letter or make an encouraging post cheering on Jabari. They should give advice to the character on ways to overcome his fears.
  3. A reflective journal for students about their fears and overcoming them is a perfect option. Students can write about a fear they overcame or something they want to overcome. 

Salamander Sky (Green Writers Press)
Written by Katy Farber
Illustrated by Meg Sodano

For ages: 4-8
A young girl and her mother have been waiting for a special seasonal event. They know it is time when the rain falls and go outside to watch. This is the story of amphibian migration when salamanders leave their winter burrows and go on a journey to the wetlands where they were once spawned. When the salamanders arrive, they will mate and lay their clutch of eggs to keep the species alive. The mother is a scientist the little girl looks up to and has already learned much about animal biology. Nature is a topic that these two people bond over and has helped them grow closer.

There’s a lyricism to the text without it becoming poetry, and it’s very sparse, letting the illustrations do a lot of talking. A sense of patience sits over the whole book, encouraging us to be still in special quiet moments and take in our surroundings. Meg Sodano’s art compliments that feel very well with its use of crayons, water-soluble pencils, and digital flourishes. The illustrations also do a good job of showcasing the development cycle of salamanders, showing them in every stage of their lives. This book would be fantastic for an elementary biology unit, especially one talking about migrations.


  1. Sequencing is a great skill to practice here using the life cycle of salamanders. This could be done as a writing project or an illustrated poster.
  2. A reflective journal about students’ relationships with family members works too. Students should think of someone in their family they love spending time with, as the little girl and her mother do in the book. Then, they can write a personal narrative about that family member and what activity they enjoy doing with them. 
  3. Students can research animal migrations that take place in their region. This will vary based on where you live, but almost every area has some seasonal migration. Researching this, documenting findings, and possibly observing it in person would make for fantastic learning experiences.

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